Toronto Maple Leafs GM Search: Why the Media Panic?

Michael ForbesCorrespondent IMarch 30, 2008

The Leafs haven’t interviewed a single candidate for the President/GM job, despite having fired JFJ back on January 22.

This comes as no surprise to me.

While I'm no expert on the inner workings of NHL level executive recruitment, I would guess that the vast majority of candidates for the Leafs post are currently under contract with other NHL clubs.

Not only does their contractual status preclude them from being interviewed by MLSE, any reasonable person would also realize that these prospective candidates are a little more focused on their respective team's cup run than interviewing with Peddie and Kirke.

That little bit of logic appears to be of very little interest to Damien Cox, who vomits up 632 words on the fact that the Leafs haven’t conducted any formal interviews for the President/GM post.

According to Cox,

What was a surprise, however, was that Peddie made it clear that he, and the team, don't believe time is of the essence when it comes to hiring a new hockey czar…and the Leafs seem content with the possibility that the "hunt" could linger into July or August.

Can you believe the gumption of MLSE? They’re actually willing to let a month, maybe two, pass between the awarding of the Stanley Cup and the hiring of their next President and GM.

I don’t know about Damien, but if I were looking to make the most important hire my organization has ever faced, I’d certainly want to rush things. I certainly would want to be beholden to false deadlines.

Cox continues:

In two months, no candidates have been interviewed – wouldn't now be a good time to chat with unemployed types like Doug Armstrong or Neil Smith, highly regarded individuals like Hockey Canada's Bob Nicholson or even NHL executive Colin Campbell?

Hmm. It seems to me Cox was front and centre at a certain press conference when MLSE identified the criteria of their next GM. Peddie clearly said (or maybe he just moved his lips and someone else said it) all GM candidates must have prior experience running an NHL club (so long Campbell, no dice Nicholson) and ideally should have won at the NHL level (so much for Armstong).

That leaves Neil Smith.

The man who claims he invented fantasy hockey.

A man who hasn’t had a GM job for a decade (unless you count his 3 weeks on Long Island).

Can you imagine the indignation Cox would muster up for his column if Neil Smith were ever mentioned as a front runner for the Leafs? Oy gevalt.

Back to Cox:

It would have made far more sense for Peddie to declare that an aggressive hunt is on, every possibility is being examined and a new executive saviour will definitely be in place by the entry draft to begin charting a more productive future.

Let’s do some math on this one.

The playoffs will likely wrap up the first week in June.

The entry draft is June 21.

If Peddie were to do what Cox recommends, the Leafs would have, at most, two weeks to interview, negotiate with and ultimately sign their new President/GM. Never mind the time required to get the appropriate permissions to interview and dealing with any other contractual issues.

Does anyone, other than Cox, think this is remotely realistic?

Maybe Leaf fans could chip in a couple of bucks and order up Damien some remedial help so that he can learn to pick-up the phone and call an actual source. I'd love to know what any executive recruiting firm worth it's salt would have to say about procuring a top executive and having them signed sealed and delivered in 10 business days or less.

Yet, that's not only what Cox thinks MLSE should be doing, he's openly castigating them in print for their failure to do so.

What would it take to satisfy this guy?

I also love this aside in Cox's column:

It's worth noting here that the three stars of last night's game were Anton Stralman, Jiri Tlusty and Nik Antropov. Stralman and Tlusty were drafted under Ferguson's leadership, while the contracts of Antropov ($2 million U.S.), goalie Vesa Toskala ($3 million) and defenceman Tomas Kaberle ($4.25 million) were all negotiated by JFJ and are the most salary cap-effective deals the team has.

Funny how Cox fails to mention the other half of that equation. How the NTC5 and the mediocre play of Blake, Raycroft, Wozniewski – all with contracts negotiated by JFJ - were the least salary-cap effective deals the team has and a big reason why JFJ no longer has a job.

Cox concludes:

So while Peddie was ostensibly doing damage control, all it really did was make it abundantly clear that the dazed and confused Leafs are pursuing the future with continued maximum dysfunction as their guide.

Uh, sure Damien. Whatever you say buddy.

Far be it from me to defend MLSE (I'm going to need a shower after typing this) but taking an additional month to hire the one person that this entire organization and fan base will be putting their faith in is the wrong thing to do?

The right thing to do is to commit to a ten day window to find their saviour?

If that’s how Cox defines "dysfunctional" I wonder what's the apt adjective to describe the Toronto Star’s newsroom and Cox’s ability to churn this stuff out for nearly 20 years?


For those of you interested in the “PR efforts” Cox refers to, there’s an excellent six minute, 40 second clip of Elliot Friedman interviewing Richard Peddie from Saturday’s CBC game. To view it, surf over to here, click on the “search” option, type in Peddie and Inside Hockey,March 29 should be your top option. (Hopefully, your video feed won’t buffer as badly as mine. And if you do watch, put yourself in Peddie's shoes when he's asked about the Habs marketing efforts with Grade 5 students - I hate that f*cker Peddie with a passion, but he gets full marks for not falling off his seat and laughing at Friedman over that line of questioning.)